Murder in the entertainment industry – in the 1960s

Elly Griffiths is the author of three main crime series which I enjoy. I discussed her books which feature Ruth Galloway, an archaeologist based in Norfolk here and I highly recommend them. The Midnight Hour is one of a series based in and around Brighton. The first book in the series The Zig-Zag Girl is set just after WW2 but in this latest title we are now in the 1960s although featuring the same characters.

The books feature Edgar Stephens who is a police officer. During the war he was involved with a secret intelligence unit and met Max Mephisto, a stage magician, who became his friend. All of the books involve some sort of entertainment background and Max or his daughter Ruby are usually part of the story.

By the time we reach the 1960s Edgar is married to Emma who was a police officer but who has had to resign because of her marriage (perfectly normal in the 1960s sadly). Emma has now started a detective agency with a journalist friend (perhaps not so normal) and this book mostly concentrates on her and on a current female police officer who are both investigating the same crime but from different angles. I did find, however, that the way in which information was shared between the police and civilians seemed very unlikely to me but it is necessary for the plot.

A notable theatre producer has died and when it is determined that the death was by poison his wife, a famous actress, is under suspicion – by her son as well as others. The investigators latch quickly onto something that happened in the past when a woman died by suicide and start to reveal secrets. The murderer is worried that they are getting too close and another murder occurs.

The plot mainly follows the investigators as they chase around interviewing people and then trying to tie the stories together. Fortunately everyone they meet has an important piece of information to give them. Emma spends a lot of time trying to fit in her investigation with childcare and the women fight society’s automatic sexual discrimination. As most of the characters are involved in the entertainment industry the story visits a film set and a theatre.

I enjoyed this story a lot but it did have some difficulties. Apart from the unprofessionalism of the police I also thought that some things were started and then dropped. The police seemed only to investigate one aspect of the life of the victim which fortunately was the right one. The ending was suitably exciting though and the characters are engaging. A quick and satisfying read.

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